Tour: And As the Year Ended, the MWA Slipped on Their Gumshoes


For the penultimate walk of 2013 I took out no less than twenty members of the Mystery Writers of America on a two hour version of the tour, highlighting The Maltese Falcon — you’ve got to figure that if someone is a member of MWA they ought to be more or less familiar with Hammett, so the biographical and litcrit sections can be tightened up or deleted, to speed things along.

It may be that not everyone was an actual mystery writer or crime-writer-in-training. Could have been a spouse or two along for the ride, plus I found out that we had at least one husband-and-wife (or wife-and-husband, if you prefer) team on the excursion.

On first glance I only knew one person — the mysterious Miss P, a.k.a. P. Segal, of the Cacophony Society. She gets a fair amount of ink in the new book on that group (I only get a mention or two, since I didn’t have much to do with it — compared to The Suicide Club, my preferred venue, it just wasn’t that interesting for me — like being on Facebook instead of on the streets).

Turns out Miss P is working on a mystery novel — I presume with Marcel Proust as the detective, since the Proustian thing is what she’s known for — and also is doing a Death Lit style blog of mystery reviews called Femme Noir. With archives going back to 2009! That’s a lot of reviews.

Who knew? I can barely nudge this blog along, much less keep up with what everyone else is doing. . . .

As the NorCal branch began to assemble I had the thought that the last time I went to a meeting was when Julie Smith was honcho, when she had her first two or three novels out, before moving to New Orleans. I thought to ask, “Do you guys know Julie Smith?”

One woman — I believe it was Claudia Long — replied: “She’s one of our finest mystery writers.”

Yeah, yeah, I thought — but I more meant, Have you met her? Hung out at a MWA meeting?

I got introduced to Sheldon Siegel, who is taking the reins for next term (who knows how many presidents they’ve had since Julie left town). Obviously a very nice guy. Aside from general impressions, Siegel is a New York Times Bestseller — and anyone with that kind of success who’ll take the time to run a local writers group is a Very Nice Guy.

Diana R. Chambers also was on that November 17th walk — author of the Nick Daley series of international thrillers, beginning with Stinger and The Company She Keeps.

And the married writers? Claudia H. Long, again, author of (among others) Weave Her Thread With Bones,  a San Francisco  — mostly North Beach — mystery published in 2000. And husband Clyde Long, author of The Bartender.

For the image this time I decided on Claudia’s new one, The Harlot’s Pen, just released February 1st, which Claudia describes as:

The fictional story of a lady reporter who embeds herself, physically and metaphorically, in a brothel during the labor and communist movements of 1919 and 1920 to write about the real conditions of working women. The story takes place half in San Francisco, on the very streets we walked, and half in Sonoma, at the El Verano salon run by the historically real Spanish Kitty — once the most powerful madam in San Francisco.

Striking cover, too.

But mostly I picked Claudia because she really got into the spirit of things. After we’d done the walk for awhile, left 891 Post and climbed to the corner of Sutter and Leavenworth, she pointed to the apartment building on the northwest corner and said, “That’s where we used to live!”

I am not going to be anywhere near as famous as Dashiell Hammett, but maybe one day when you’re on your tour you will point out the building at 805 Leavenworth and say, “That’s where the author Claudia H. Long lived with her husband Clyde Long in 1980!” and the folks will stop and take a picture!

I’ll toss it in on the next several walks, at least — that is the whole idea of Literary San Francisco, after all, of which the San Francisco Mystery is a vital element.

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